‘The eyes though. You have to admit the eyes are unusual.’
‘He’s got lovely eyes.’
‘OK yeah, sure. He has lovely eyes, they are just very intense.’
‘It’s not his eyes, it’s what he focusses on, that’s what you mean.’
‘You’re right. Staring right at you. I feel like I’m being interrogated whenever I talk to him.’
‘Hi son, good day at school? Did you get to work on your project? How was…. argh, stop staring at me!’
‘That’s funny! Maybe he can be a police officer, he’d make a great police officer.’
‘Police officer? Hypnotist more like. Look into my eyes, not around my eyes. You are getting sleepy.’
‘Well, any career would be good. I do worry, he’s so talented but he can’t cope.’
‘I know, I worry too. Let’s see how tomorrow goes…’
‘Have a seat please’
They did as instructed, taking in their surroundings as they nervously waited. The certainty of what to say suddenly gone, the confidence of the night before replaced by the doubt of the moment.
Focus, that was what was needed, and focus on the conversation, not on the flickering light or the gurgle of the water cooler.
‘Hello Paul. Hello Stacey. Thanks for coming. As you know, I’m Mrs Jeavons the school coordinator here at Ashton Academy. This is a chance for us to have a chat about Jacob to see how we can make progress. How can we all help Jacob fit in a bit better and get more out of school.’
Mrs Jeavons, Janice to her friends and a few of her colleagues, paused, wondering how to start. Was it best to plough straight in? Maybe not.
‘Sorry about that light,’ she said instead, delaying the inevitable. ‘I’d use the other office but it’s one of those rare occasions when we have two meetings happening at once. Generally we try to keep meetings to an absolute minimum.’
‘Don’t we all,’ Stacey added, immediately feeling a little embarrassed at the unplanned interjection.
‘Yes, very true,’ Mrs Jeavons said. ‘Very true, but maybe not for Jacob. I suspect he’d love meetings.’
‘He’d probably like meetings in here,’ Paul offered, focussing on his son’s differences. ‘I doubt he’d even notice the light…’
Paul had retreated to his man cave to reflect – and probably watch a favourite film, but Stacey needed information.
She clicked on the search bar.
‘What is Pollanism?’
‘Can Pollanism be cured?’
‘How common is Pollanism?
‘Which famous people have Pollanism.’ Apparently loads of actors, or at least that was the speculation.
The NPS looked a good place to start, National Pollanism Society. Stacey read and read, she gourged, she devoured information, the stats, the fact that it was a life-long difference, it couldn’t be grown out of.
The more she read she felt better and worse, there was help, there was support, it was a difference not a disability and yet difference also surely meant struggle. Would he learn to fit in, was fitting in even the aim, would he thrive? Would he be able to be himself or would he have to learn how other people acted, copying them to join them but never being allowed to truly be himself?
What was it the coordinator had said?
He seems to lack focus, he doesn’t have one or two special interests, instead flitting between things. Without focus how could he ever excel, what good would being quite good at several things be as opposed to being really good at one or two?
He mingles, that was another thing that had been said. It was true too, put Jacob in a group with children he didn’t know and he’d be trying to chat away as if he’d known them all his life. Why didn’t he ease in? Why did he seem so reliant on company at times? Why did he seem to have a reluctance to just be on his own, with his own thoughts.
Were his sense OK? He had passed eye tests, his hearing was fine and yet his reactions seemed dulled and diluted. He wouldn’t notice the flickering of the light or, if he did, it wouldn’t perturb him. There was no texture he particularly disliked, no sound that appeared to overly stress him, no taste he’d instantly spit out.
Not every child is extremely sensitive to each of the senses, but to no have a single acute sense. That was surely a cause for concern.
Then there was the disruption, always, well she hadn’t said always – usually wanting to work as part of a group. Literacy, numeracy, topic work – it sounded like it didn’t matter, whatever it was, Jacob was never happier than when working in a group when others just wanted to work alone.
The implication had been clear, other children were having their educations disrupted, Jacob’s needs were impinging on the class as a whole. Everyone was suffering, Jacob’s own work and also his future prospects. How many jobs were there where you got to work in a group? He needed to learn to go it alone.
He sighed, trying to get his head round it.
‘That’s right,” Stacey repeated. ‘He wants everyone to come to his party’
‘Everyone? His whole class. That’s how many? 10 or 12 children?’
‘Not the class, the year group. He wants all 35, he wants a really big party at the local trampoline centre’.
‘We’ll have to book the whole place, that’s way more than they usually allow.’
‘It’s going to be hell. Can you imagine, 35 children trampolining.’
‘Or it won’t be hell because most children won’t come. It would be far too stressful for a normal, err, for most children. We’ll have a heartbroken child who wants 35 children at his birthday and gets almost none. What can we do?’
‘Be there for him. Help him. Try to make the world smoother for him. That’s all we can do.’
And so that’s what they did. That’s what they continue to do.